The greatness of the Jama Masjid was felt during my first visit to Dariyagunj. I was heading for a delicious Mughlai dinner at the legendary Karim’s and seen the huge minarets and the domes of the mosque from a distance. It was one of the last few days of the Ramzan and naturally, the entire area was lit up beautifully. The Meena Bazar, which is adjacent to the mosque was filled with people doing their last minute Eid shopping and the shops in fact extended to the main road. I was to come for the morning prayer on the day of the Eid. It was little unfortunate that I had to spend the Eid away from home but there was an excitement that I will read the prayer at the great Jama Masjid.
– PIN IT FOR FUTURE –
The moment my auto took a turn from the ring road, I can spot countless heads covered in white Taquyahs and all those were heading towards the Jama Masjid. It was still very early in the morning and there was more than an hour left for the prayer but already a strong crowd was there. The auto could not go beyond the Brij Mohan Chowk crossing from where I started walking. It was a narrow street but full of activity. What I most like about the festivals of India is that it becomes a manner of social equality. Truly, the thousands of people wearing new kurtas, sherwanis, Taquyahs, Fez come from different social, economic and cultural background but it is impossible to identify them.
I entered through the South Gate. The huge gate has 33 broad steps under it and is built in true Mughal Style. The Jama Masjid, which was actually named Masjid-I-Jahan-Numa or the ‘Mosque that commands the view of the world’ was built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the yeat 1656 which makes it one of the last major monuments of Mughal Era. Naturally, by that time, Mughal Architecture was fully flourished and this mosque is a true representation of that. The two storied hexagonal gateway has a grand pointed arch centrally with two cusped arch windows on each floor of the adjoining sides. The best part of the gateway is its terrace, which largely resembles the great Buland Darwaza – beautiful arched panels as parapet and a series of Arches & domes above it. The corners of the hexagonal gate have octagonal minarets. While the entire gateway was covered with red sandstone, the top domes are made of marble.
Upon entering the gate I was greeted with a huge courtyard with the main mosque towards my left. The courtyards have two more similar gateways – one towards the east which faces the Red Fort and another towards the North which connects the Chandni Chawk. The courtyard is beautifully enclosed with a raised verandah all around which is also a series of cusped arches and arched parapet. The corners of the courtyard had an octagonal verandah with a marble dome on top – these areas were occupied by the people from the press. The courtyard, which has almost 1200 sq.mt. area has a capacity of 25000 people praying together.
The Main mosque is gigantic. Three huge onion domes which are the trademark of Mughal Architecture and two high minarets at the corners. The central Iwan portal which marks the main entry to the prayer hall was huge and projected from the main building. The surface is a beautiful work of red sandstone and white marble. On both sides of the Iwan Portal there are five cusped arched gateways and at the sides of the facade two gigantic minarets are placed. The Minarets are 40 metres high and can be accessed through a door at the ground. There are 130 steps inside which leads to the top from where a beautiful picture of Old Delhi can be seen. The gates remain closed on the days of Eid and thus, I could not enter the minarets. The most fascinating thing about the facade of the mosque is the beautiful proportion of red & white. The minarets are perfectly drafted with vertical stripes of white which gives a elongated feeling and they looks even higher. The domes, too had black vertical stripes which make it an extraordinary one. Like traditional Mughal architecture, the domes are topped with bulbous finial with a lotus base – a derivation from Hindu Architecture. The mosque is about 90 meters long and 27.5 meters in breadth.
When I reached, It was pretty empty inside, I washed at the central pond. The praying seat for the sultan made with marble is still present and it seems to be a popular photography spot for the children. I went to the surrounding terrace to have a greater look at the outside. The Eastern gate was overlooking the historic Meena Bazar and the Red Fort at a distance. All around, on every street I could see, it was only people approaching. I was not sure If everybody could be accommodated. A local person informed me that, when the courtyard gets full, the surrounding verandah, the terraces and then the outside steps and also the streets get occupied by people offering their prayer. The garden on the Eastern side also has a good capacity. It is certain nearly a Lakh of people come here for their Eid prayer. Within a few minutes, I could see the courtyard getting full and I went down to secure a place for myself.
Soon the Namaz started. I was thrilled – I was offering Namaz at a place where once the great Emperor Shah Jahan with his sons Dara Sikoh, Shah Suja and Aurangjeb offered their Namaz. The Namaz was over soon and It was time for greeting. I was an outside with no relatives there but that did not stop people from greeting me. The persons who were beside me happily extended greeting to me and we hugged each other. The process repeated with few more. By that time, I was more confident and could spot a few outsiders like me and we greeted each other. These people were from Kerala. It was my first Eid prayer with complete strangers but soon I had a few companions.
The crowd disappeared quickly but I stayed inside to see the mosque properly and take a few photographs. After that, I went out to have my breakfast. I was planning to head to Karim’s again but unfortunately, it remains closed on the day of Eid. So, I went to the adjoining restaurant and ordered my favourite – Mutton Chaap and Tandoori Roti. My first Eid outside home started quite well. Now It was time to explore more of Mughal marvels of the city.